On Dec. 22, 2003, WSDOT's State Route 18 - Maple Valley to Issaquah Hobart Road contractor began storing woody material in an environmentally sensitive wetland, known as Mitigation Site 2. Over the next fourteen weeks crews covered approximately one acre of reed canary grass wetland. Crews also cleared and filled a total of .3 acres at seven additional wetland and wetland mitigation sites.
How did WSDOT respond to the violation?
On April 8 WSDOT staff reported the violation to the Corps of Engineers, King County, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. On April 26, at the request of the Corps of Engineers, WSDOT and contractor Atkinson Construction, Inc. stopped all work in and near environmentally sensitive areas.
We took immediate steps to assure compliance on this and other current construction projects:
• Clearly fenced all environmentally sensitive areas
• Held mandatory informational meetings and provided notices to workers and contractors working on wetlands and other sensitive areas
• identified and reviewed all remaining work that may affect sensitive areas
• Hired a full-time environmental consultant to monitor the project
• Increased communication with environmental resource agencies
• Increased training for project staff
How did the violation occur?
On April 10, 2004, a team of WSDOT experts were asked to investigate the permit violation and recommend steps WSDOT should take to prevent future environmental violations. Investigators visited the construction site, interviewed twenty people, and reviewed documents and e-mail correspondence.
WSDOT's full report (pdf 279 kb) details the information they gathered and their recommendations. An overview of the report is contained in an executive summary(pdf 86 kb). The free Acrobat Reader is required to view the report files.
WSDOT is implementing the report's recommendations and will take additional steps to prevent future environmental violations as quickly as possible. We continue to work closely with regulatory agencies to assure environmental compliance while completing our projects.
How did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers respond?
On April 26, 2004, the Corps of Engineers shut down all work in and near SR 18 project site wetlands.
On July 22, 2004, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it and WSDOT reached a settlement agreement to resolve the permit violation. WSDOT accepts the findings and the provisions of the settlement agreement, and takes responsibility for our mistakes.
The settlement allows WSDOT to resume work in and near environmentally sensitive areas and contains these provisions:
• WSDOT will pay a $50,000 civil penalty
• WSDOT shall not fill wetlands on the project site unless it has permission
• WSDOT must submit a plan within two months of the agreement date to restore the eight affected wetlands and must complete this wetland restoration by Dec. 31, 2004
• WSDOT will perform additional wetland creation and enhancement to compensate for the damaged wetlands. WSDOT must submit plan for this additional work by Sept. 19, 2004, and must submit a final plan by Jan. 31, 2005. This work must be completed by Dec. 31, 2005. If the Corps of Engineers does not approve this additional work, WSDOT will pay a $170,000 penalty.
• WSDOT must implement all recommendations described in its May 20 report (pdf 279 kb) and submit status reports on implementation efforts every six months for three years. WSDOT will pay a $110,000 penalty by July 30, 2007, if it does not satisfactorily implement the report's recommendations.
• WSDOT will assign a replacement project engineer to carry out the terms of the settlement agreement
• An independent consultant with the authority to stop work will remain on the project until it is complete
How did the Washington State Department of Ecology respond?
On July 22, 2004, the Washington State Department of Ecology also announced it fined WSDOT and contractor Atkinson Construction $121,000 for clearing and filling eight wetlands and three wetland mitigation sites on the SR 18 project site without proper authorization, and for performing work in two wetland mitigation sites after the Department of Ecology's April 30, 2004, stop work order.